BEIJING – According to Jose Valencia, the foreign minister of Ecuador, the actions of security forces during widespread protests in the South American country in early October were “measured,” as he argues that none of the seven killed during the demonstrations, died due to firearm injuries.
In a Monday interview with EFE in Beijing, China, where he was on an official visit, Valencia alleged the indigenous community’s protests were exploited by “violent groups” for “very specific political agendas,” but also said the country had to address challenges to bridge social divides.
Valencia also spoke about the ties between China and his country and the outcomes of his visit.
Police action during the protests in Ecuador has received criticism from many quarters, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
We, as a national government, have demonstrated in a credible manner that law enforcement agencies acted according to institutional protocols, which were also adopted to United Nations’ guidelines for this type of circumstance.
It is regrettable that seven people lost their lives, but none of them died due to the use of firearms. [The deaths] took place in accidents that, during the protests, occurred at different times in different places of the country. The actions of the security forces of Ecuador, in my opinion, were rather measured.
The police had to face acts of violence that were unprecedented in the country. It was by no means a peaceful protest, which validates the government’s argument that apart from the demands of those who were discontent, there was another violent, chaotic process, of sabotage, intended to destabilize.
Is there a risk that the protests that shook Ecuador at the beginning of October could break out again?
We lived through some very tense days. Maybe the national government’s rationale behind balancing public finances – which would have benefited the society as a whole – was not interpreted well. Along with the protests that broke out, there were also actions of groups which – operating outside the law – tried to take advantage of the protests to generate and spread chaos in the country.
Normalcy has returned. This does not mean that the problem has been solved 100 percent. Exchanges and discussions continue. We believe that in a democracy, problems are resolved through peaceful means, dialog and understanding. That’s how it should be.
Was the withdrawal of the subsidy on petrol the only cause, or are there deeper reasons behind the discontent and protests?
It was an unexpected cause. In all societies, there are people who think their expectations have not been met. Of course, Ecuador is a developing country and we still have many challenges to deal with in order to bridge the social divides. What’s important is working together to resolve them in a peaceful way. We don’t believe that a violent solution – something which disturbs social peace or worse, disrupts the democratic order – is an adequate response.
The protests in Ecuador were followed by others in Chile, Bolivia and Peru. What is happening in Latin America? Is a wave of popular discontent taking over?
I don’t think there is a very clear common denominator, although we are [all] developing countries facing a series of social problems. I believe the [protests] have different contexts.
What has been the outcome of your China visit?
The main objective was the eighth foreign minister-level consultative meeting with my Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. We reviewed Ecuador’s bilateral agenda with China from a political perspective, covering the entire spectrum of our ties.
Additionally, I also submitted a document which makes Ecuador a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is a very special opportunity for our country to be more integrated with the Pacific Rim countries and other states connected to the bank. I also held a protocol meeting with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
How have things progressed since one year ago, when Ecuador signed up as a member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
We are finalizing the memorandum of understanding, the framework under which Ecuador joins the BRI. We are working on determining specific projects, and expect it (BRI) to deliver results soon through the implementation plan.
Has Ecuador recovered the time it had lost compared to other Latin American countries with respect to its ties with China?
We are making progress, we believe that we still have some distance to cover. The trade between Ecuador and China shows a significant surplus for the latter. We don’t necessarily see this as an obstacle, on the contrary, it is a challenge for Ecuador’s production sector to look for new options to enter and establish itself in the Chinese market.